DRC: Re-Emerging As A Tantalum Hotspot

By Michelle Smith — Exclusive to Tantalum Investing News

DRC: Re-Emerging as a Tantalum Hotspot

AVX (NYSE:AVX) has manufactured the world's first capacitors containing validated conflict-free tantalum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and has shipped these supplies to Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI). This arrangement was made possible by the commitment of both companies to the Solutions for Hope (SfH) initiative, which aims to see the DRC become a reliable and sustainable source of conflict-free tantalum.

Concerns about cash from DRC tantalum flowing to armed conflict groups resulted in a number of unintended consequences. Companies responded by implementing self-imposed bans on tantalum from the region, which caused massive job losses for the Congolese whose lives were supported by the industry. Further, a massive amount of resources sat by as consumers attempted to manage rapidly-escalating tantalum prices.

Solutions for Hope

Last July, Motorola announced the launch of SfH, a pilot program designed to use a closed supply chain to obtain conflict-free tantalum from the DRC. AVX announced that it would be a partner.

To ensure that supplies remain conflict-free from mine to finished product, a pipeline was established whereby tantalum is obtained from specific mining concessions in North Katanga. The rights to that land are owned by Mining Mineral Resources (MMR). A mining co-op called Cooperative Des Artisanaux Miniers du Congo ( CDMC), has been contracted to manage the artisanal miners at the site.

In a semi-mechanized operation, MMR removes the overburden and artisanal miners remove the underlying tantalum, which is collected, weighed, and logged. This process is widely referred to throughout the industry as a “bag and tag scheme.”

The tantalum is then transported to a depot in Kalemie, DRC where AVX pays market price for it and exports the ore to Johannesburg, South Africa.